There are a number of different medications that can be prescribed by a GP in order to alleviate some of the symptoms of anxiety, it is generally accepted that there is no cure as such; instead, medication provides a relief from symptoms so that the root cause(s) of the condition can be explored.

Anti-anxiety drugs are sometimes referred to as tranquilizers as the relieve symptoms of anxiety by completely calming and slowing down central nervous system (CNS). In addition to providing a treatment of the symptoms of anxiety, they anti-anxiety medications are often prescribed to aid sleep and relieve insomnia as well as acting as a muscle relaxant to relieve anxiety related tension and distress.

Benzodiazepines are the most common type of anti-anxiety drugs and there are a variety of these including:

  • Clonazepam for example Klonopin is specifically helpful to treat panic attacks.
  • Alprazolam for example Xanax is one of the fastest activating anti anxiety drug available.
  • Diazepam for example Valium is probably one of the best known medications given to relieve symptoms of anxiety as well as alcohol withdrawal symptoms and relax muscle spasms.
  • Lorazepam for example Ativan is specifically recommended for alleviating anxiety related insomnia.

Benzodiazepines are known to be very fast acting, the majority of medications instigating a relieving affect within an hour of consumption, as such they are often prescribed to be taken at the onset of a panic attack or before an anxiety induced situation. Despite their proven capacity to relieve symptoms of anxiety, benzodiazepines through their actions of slowing the central nervous system, can also instigate changes in brain activity and other undesirable side effects.

Side effects of Benzodiazepines

Side effects of benzodiazepines can arise even with low dose levels but become more pronounced when taken at higher doses.

Upon taking benzodiazepines, the user is likely to feel drowsy with a distinctive reduction in energy levels. The user may experience slower reflexes, dizziness and sometimes clumsiness, slurred speech and in some cases disorientation, blurred vision and stomach problems. People taking anti-depressants may also experience impaired cognitive function including memory loss and difficulty making decisions and sound judgements. Many of these side effects can cause severe impairments on daily activities.

Additional problems arise for people taking benzodiazepines as they are metabolized at a relatively slow rate in order that their anti-anxiety effects last for a longer period of time, however this means there can be a build up of the medication within the body when they are taken for extended periods causing over sedation which has similar properties to the feeling of being drunk, this may also cause ‘medication hangovers’ the following day.

Alternatives to medication

Severe anxiety can impede normal living and can have a negative effect on social relationships, occupations and education, though medication may alleviate some of the symptoms of the condition, the root cause of the problem is not addressed and the side effects may become more impeding than the anxiety itself.

Therapy and self-help techniques such as mindfulness meditation target the source of the anxiety and provide techniques to cope with the condition and have a normal life without any negative side effects.

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